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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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Browse the glossary using this index

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active listening

Listening actively rather than passively to what a speaker is saying. It involves concentrating on and remembering what is being said, resulting in more engagement with the speaker. It is a technique used in resolving conflicts between people as well as supporting people.



Beneficiaries include service users, participants, and so on. In other words, the people whom voluntary organisations aim to benefit. The term incorporates a wider view, however. If an organisation provides activities for children with disabilities, are the beneficiaries the parents or guardians of the children? Or is it the children themselves?



A way to use marketing and communications to distinguish organisations or products from their competitors.



Someone who takes control of a meeting and helps it run efficiently, facilitates and summarises discussions, and ensures the meeting achieves its aims.


A paid street charity fundraiser who asks for donations, usually by direct debit.

collaborative advantage

Organisations working together find they can achieve more together than operating apart. This is usually attributed to sharing resources and expertise. Research on partnership working has found evidence of both collaborative advantage and collaborative inertia.

collaborative inertia

Organisations working together may make slow progress and achieve little. Research on partnership working has found evidence of both collaborative advantage and collaborative inertia.


A type of document setting out an organisation’s purposes and rules. This is the most commonly known name for a governing document. For some organisations this document may be called memorandum and articles of association, trust deed or rules instead.


Written agreements enforceable by law. In the context of the voluntary sector, it usually relates to a specification for service delivery between a voluntary organisation and local or central government.

core competences

Used to describe a set of skills, knowledge, behaviours and expertise required for a person to do a particular job.


A relatively new method of raising funds, usually online. A specific project, activity or item is described, with a target amount that will pay for it. Supporters are then invited to pledge money to make it happen.


deficit budget

Where spending exceeds income.



Relates to morals, and what is right or wrong.


How all types of spending is described in budgets.



In the context of charities, a gift is a donation of money usually by an individual.


In terms of voluntary organisations, it refers to all aspects of controlling, managing and leading organisations. It can also be applied at the national level and includes government and other authorities that run the country.

governing body

The group of people (often called the board of trustees) who control, manage and lead a voluntary organisation.


A type of subsidy (money) given to a voluntary organisation by funders such as government, other voluntary organisations or private sector organisations.



Diverse, varied.


Same, alike.



Particular words or expressions used by professions or organisations that are difficult for people outside the groups to understand.



Availability of liquid assets, i.e. easy access to money from the bank.


market segmentation

A marketing strategy whereby the market is divided into subsets of people or organisations which share common needs or interests. This means these different groups can be targeted more specifically.


Where funds need to be raised in equal (or matched) amounts. It is often a condition of grants, whereby the funder says that an equal amount has to be raised by the organisation before it will award the grant.



In the context of meetings or relationships at work, this relates to discussions that aim to reach agreement, often through compromise.


A notional cost (expenditure) is a hidden cost, e.g. buying a new piece of equipment creates an actual cost but then there may be additional costs in training people to use it.



Different organisations within the same or different sectors working together to achieve common goals. They may involve short- or long-term projects and involve small or substantial budgets. In some cases, the partnerships become new integrated organisations.


How effectively somebody works (it can also be applied to machinery or organisations).


registered charity

A voluntary organisations registered with the appropriate commission in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The organisation has to meet conditions relating to name, governance, trustees and finances.


Voluntary organisations are regulated or checked by the appropriate commission to guard against malpractice. Fundraising is also regulated in the UK.


Voluntary organisations are regulated or checked by the appropriate commission to guard against malpractice. Fundraising is also regulated in the UK.

restricted income

This is income that can only be used for the purposes for which it was given. This is the case with many grants from funding bodies.



The ability of an organisation to meet its financial obligations.


A person, a group or an organisation that has an interest in an organisation.


Making assumptions about what someone (or something) is like.



Applications for grants or contracts.

top-down approach

An approach in an organisation or community dominated by ‘people at the top’, which does not allow for independent action by people lower down.


Charities sell products or services to raise income.


A person who gives their time for free to lead or steer voluntary organisations. Trustees set the direction for the organisation and are legally and financially responsible for it. Sometimes trustees are given other titles, such as governors, councillors, management committee members or directors.


umbrella organisations

A coordinating organisation that brings together voluntary organisations, either nationally or locally.

unrestricted income

Income that can be spent on any purpose decided by the organisation. This income is usually from donations.


value commitments

People’s commitments to their own values as well as those of their organisation.


What people believe in, what is most important to them. Values are part of what drives people’s behaviour and actions.

virtual teams

Dispersed teams who rarely meet face to face but are able to work effectively due to communication technologies. People might be in different parts of an organisation, different organisations, different locations and/or time zones.

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